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Venerable Master Hua's Talks on Dharma Volume Two 

化老和尚開示 Lectures by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua



In Investigating Chan, First Lay the Foundation     

地基沒打好,房子必不堅固, 風一吹就倒,雨一沖就散。
If you don't lay a good foundation, your house will not be sturdy;
the wind will blow it down and the rain will wash it away.



Among the students of Buddhism, some like to investigate Chan; some like to study the teachings, speak the Dharma, and lecture on the sutras; some like to investigate the precepts; some enjoy cultivating the Secret School; and some like to practice the Pure Land School. No matter which school you like, you must concen-trate single-mindedly and cultivate with diligence. Then you will be able to achieve your goal and realize your hopes.



But if your mind isn't concentrated, then no matter what you study, it's the same as not studying. So after investigating Chan for two and a half days, you decide to recite the Buddha's name; after reciting the Buddha's name for half a day, you wish to study the Vinaya (moral code). After studying the Vinaya for a while, you decide to study in the Secret School. Since you keep changing your goal, you cannot concentrate. The reason you cannot concentrate is because you are seeking outside. You have your feet in two boats, and you can't decide whether you want to go north or south on the river. In that way, you end up wasting your whole life.




In investigating Chan, you must be vigorous at all times; don't be lazy for a single minute or second. You should investigate until:

The mountains disappear and the waters vanish, and you doubt there is a road ahead.
Beyond the dark willows and the bright flowers is another village.


就別有洞天,別有一種天然妙趣。但必定要參到極點,到登峰造極,然後才有一點點希望,但並不多。雖有一點點的希望,也不要抱著希望,否則又變成頭上安頭。 參禪,就是要老實用功。


At that point there is another heaven, another natural paradise. But you must investigate to the utmost point and reach the summit. Then there's a bit of hope, but not much. Although there's a tiny bit of hope, don't hang onto it, because that would be superfluous (adding a head on top of a head).


  To investigate Chan, you must honestly put in the effort. First of all, you must practice sitting until your legs are compliant-until they don't hurt or cause any trouble. How can you get your legs to stop hurting? Is there a mantra you can recite to stop the pain? Is there a medicine you can take to keep them from hurting? No. You must endure the pain, and then they will become obedient and stop hurting. If you cannot endure it, and you move your legs and let them rest as soon as they start hurting, your legs will never become obedient because you are spoiling them. Whenever they hurt, you simply placate them as if placating an unhappy child. If the child knows his parents cannot bear to see him suffer, he won't be able to endure any suffering in the future. Your legs are just like a child; if you fear the pain, they will hurt all the time, even when they aren't supposed to hurt. That's because you've spoiled them rotten.




You must train your legs and your back to be compliant, so that they won't ache or hurt. When your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and mind are all compliant, so that they don't seek after sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, or dharmas; when you are not influenced by the six sense organs and six sense objects, and you can turn your attention inwards, that's true obedience. As it is said,

The eyes see forms, but inside there is nothing.
The ears hear sounds, but the mind does not know.




You constantly reflect within instead of seeking outside, and you always stick to your basic Dharma-door: "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" Holding to what is basic, you "only attain the root, and don't worry about the branchtips." There's no need to worry about unimportant matters; bit by bit, everything will become clear to you.




In cultivating the Dharma-door of investigating Chan, you shouldn't try to learn the details of how to investigate when you haven't learned how to sit in full lotus, or even half lotus. You haven't finished laying the foundation yet! To investigate Chan, you must first lay the foundation.




During the first week, you can clear the land. When you want to build a house, you must first make the land level.




In the second week, you can drive in the stakes. Driving in the stakes requires some effort--this is where you must cultivate patience and endure the pain, hunger, and cold. You must endure everything, and it takes a lot of strength. It's arduous, but you must travel this path. You have to lay a good foundation and drive in good stakes. Otherwise, your house will not be sturdy; the wind will blow it down and the rain will wash it away. That's the consequence of not driving in the stakes well and not setting a good foundation.




In the third week, you can put up the beams, rafters, column bases, and columns.




During the fourth week, you can erect the walls, install doors and windows, and put up the ridgepole. That's how a house is constructed, step by step. You can't "dig a well with one thrust of the shovel"; there's no instant accomplishment.




This is true not only of investigating Chan, but also of reciting the Buddha's name, studying the teachings, cultivating the Secret School, and practicing the Vinaya- in any of these, you must devote your full attention to the task at hand. Make your mind honest, and don't yearn for what is lofty and distant. Don't run over to join the Secret School just because you hear someone talk about how wonderful it is. We shouldn't get so deluded that we obstinately refuse to see the truth and rigidly hold onto old ways. The facts are right in front of us, but with addled brains, we still chase after what's "secret, secret, secret" until we die for no apparent reason. That's truly secret! Actually, it's not secret, it's confusion; it's totally muddled.




Buddhists should study true principles. Don't blindly follow others. You should draw near virtuous people and stay away from bad people. Bad people are those who do nothing but cheat others. Virtuous people do not cheat others. People without virtue use all sorts of fraudulent means-that's why they can't preserve their virtue. Only those who don't cheat people can store up the merit and virtue they cultivate over the days and months. That's why their virtue endures. Pay attention to this when you observe people. Don't just judge by appearances and say, "That person looks virtuous; he seems to be a Good and Wise Advisor." You don't have any real way to determine that. You must really get to know him thoroughly before you can make such a statement. In this Dharma-ending Age, we all have the same problem, which is that we like to seek what is lofty and distant. Instead of using our eyes to see, we let our ears do the "seeing" for us. When we hear someone say something is good, we rush over. When we get there, we have no idea of whether it's really good or not, and without realizing it, we get duped. People who confusedly put their faith in wealth and sex and in geomancy are really pathetic!




In today's newspaper, there was an article about six children in the Fukien province of China who committed suicide together by jumping into the sea, hoping to become immortals. Why did they do that? They had been misled into believing that people who do evil become ghosts, and people who do good turn into immortals. And what did "doing good" mean? It meant not being afraid to die. Children in rural areas are quite naive and will believe whatever they hear. Since someone told those six children that good people are not afraid to die and will become immortals after death, they decided to kill themselves as a group and become immortals. They thought, "The Eight Immortals of the past probably committed suicide together. Now we can commit suicide together and become the Six Immortals and escape the cycle of rebirth in the six paths." Then they killed themselves, hoping to become immortals.




Well, did they become immortals? I can guarantee that they didn't. Why? They were too confused. People who become immortals are very intelligent. They aren't as foolish as these children, who had no understanding of true principles and couldn't tell right from wrong. How could they all die together and become immortals? If becoming immortal were that easy, everyone should just hurry up and die and become immortal. But that's impossible. How pitiful those foolish villagers are, blindly following this superstitious and deviant theory and leading their children astray. This is very sad.




But why were those children so eager and unafraid to die, saying they were going to become immortals? You could say their environment forced them to feel that life wasn't worth living, that it would be better to die than to be living corpses. So seeking liberation, they all went to their deaths together. The children had written the word "death" over a thousand times in their notebooks. Every day, it was "death, death, death." They thought of death from morning to night. In their ignorance, those boys and girls were seduced by super-stition and lost their true goal and direction.




Buddhists should not believe in superstition. You must break through superstition. What is superstition? It is being reckless and confused in your belief. You simply believe anything people say, and you end up all muddled. Being confused in your belief is still not that serious. It's only to be feared that you believe in confusion, that you believe in the confused, upside-down teachings of externalist ways. Some people try to be clever; they don't believe in what is true but instead believe in what is false. This is a case of being confused within confusion. They don't recognize true principles. They take the true to be false, and the false to be true. For example, in the case of the six children, the theory that "death leads to immortality" is actually just a false claim meant to cheat people, but they believed it. If someone had told them they have to cultivate before they can become immortals, they might not have believed that. There are many pathetic people and many woeful situations in the world; we could never finish speaking of them!




A talk given on November 28, 1982
Science and the Heaven


法界佛教總會 • DRBA / BTTS / DRBU